Top cleric orders student to remove face veil

Egypt's leading cleric Mohammed Tantawi (pictured) ordered a student to remove her face veil while was he was visiting the Al-Azhar University in Cairo, according to a news report.


AFP - Egypt's leading cleric ordered a student to remove her face veil while was he was visiting an academy linked to the Al-Azhar University in Cairo, an Egyptian newspaper reported on Monday.

Mohammed Tantawi, Azhar's Grand Imam, asked the student to take off her niqab, a face veil worn by some devout Muslim women, when he spotted her in a classroom, the daily Al-Mary al-Yowm reported, adding that the student complied.

Tantawi reportedly said the niqab was a tradition, not an Islamic obligation.

The newspaper also reported that the Minister of Higher Education Hani Hilal decided to ban women wearing the niqab from entering university residences.

Sunni Muslim scholars are divided on whether a woman must cover her face, with the majority saying it is not an obligation, but all mainstream scholars agree a woman must cover her hair and her body with loose fitting clothes.

In the Middle East, the niqab has come to be associated with Salafism, a brand of ultra-conservative Islam practiced mostly in Saudi Arabia.

Most Muslim women in Egypt wear the hijab, a veil that covers the hair, but an increase in women wearing the niqab has apparently alarmed the government.

The ministry of religious endowments has distributed booklets in mosques against the practice.

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